BWW Interview: Jim Walton Gets Screeched In as COME FROM AWAY's New Nick!
Just over a month ago, Come From Away welcomed a new 'Nick' to the Rock, as Broadway veteran Jim Walton took over for original company member Lee MacDougal.
With over three decades of Broadway credits on his resume, Walton is no stranger to the stage, having previously starred in She Loves Me, On the Twentieth Century, Drood, The Music Man, Sweeney Todd, And the World Goes 'Round, 42nd Street and Merrily We Roll Along. He has also appeared in the PBS special performances: Crazy for You, Company, Sondheim! The Birthday Concert, and Follies in Concert.
Walton just caught up with BroadwayWorld to talk all about his new gig at the Schoenfeld Theatre!
Going into a show that's already running is such a challenge. What has the experience been like for you so far?
It's been great! It's not so much creating a role, it's recreating it. At first, always in the back of my mind was "Don't mess up, don't mess up. Move that chair, now turn right. Say the line. Do the accent right!" It was a lot of that. I was very much in my head and self-conscious. And still, despite that, it went very well. But I was nervous.
I'm sure. There's so many moving pieces in that show and once you start, you just keep moving!
I do get some time offstage a couple of times. I'm offstage for three minutes at a time so that's welcome and gives me a little intermission. But you don't go to the dressing room. You're hanging in the wings and going over your lines for your next scene.
Did you get a chance to see the show when it first opened?
Not when it first opened. I didn't see it until I got an audition for it and I thought, I'd better go see it and so I did. I'd kinda of fallen out of the habit of going to the theatre as much as I used to when I was a younger man. So, I went and saw it standing room and loved it and continued working on the audition. So, I guess I saw it for the first time in August.
And the house is still packed, isn't it?
Yeah, it's selling very well. It's a big hit!
It's a show that really resonates with audiences.
It sure does. It's a great message for America right now, which is maybe more divided than I've ever seen it in my lifetime. This show is about uniting people. So, it's a very welcome message. And it's healing too, for many people, whether they suffered during 9/11 or not, there's something about it - I think, it's got a healing message and vibe to it.
I understand that your niece is on the tour as well?
Yes, isn't that crazy? My niece, Emily Walton. My younger brother, Bob, and his wife Laurie - she's their daughter and both Bob and Laurie are in the theatre. Bob's a bonafide working actor in New York and elsewhere. And yeah, Emily's playing Janice, the role that Alex [Finke] is playing now. I haven't seen her do it yet, but I'm sure she's terrific.
A post shared by Come From Away the Musical (@wecomefromaway) on Sep 24, 2018 at 12:04pm PDT
That is so cool!
Yeah, we went into the show almost at the same time. It's pretty coincidental.
Is your family very musical outside of you two?
Somewhat. Yes, there's five of us siblings - and Bob and I both have sustained careers as singing actors. Our older sister Joan, who lives in Mountain View, California, which is in the Bay Area, is a freelance choreographer/dance teacher there. And she also sang and danced in shows with us growing up, as did my younger sister Nancy. So yeah, music was in the family. We also play the piano - Bob and I do - and we write together. So, we're pretty entrenched in the musical theatre world.
I think I read that you made your Broadway debut in 1980. Is that right?
Yes, that's right.
What was that like?
Well, it was a long time ago, so I barely remember it. I know it was very exciting! I was 25 years old and I booked this show, and it was a big deal to book your first Broadway show. Of course, it only ran two weeks. [Laughs] So, it was somewhat of a bitter disappointment as well, or a real growing up time. But yeah, it was exciting and nerve-wracking and all of that. I guess that hasn't changed for me, has it?
Do you think that Broadway has changed a lot since then?
I do, yes. It seems to be more commercial or something. It seems to be very competitive. I'm sure it was competitive back then, but it seems to be more expensive - much more expensive to put a show on, to buy a ticket to see a show - which is part of the reason I slowed down going. If I wanted to have a nice seat, I just didn't want to pay $150 to see a show. It just seemed like a lot of money to spend. It still does! And, of course, now you have jukebox musicals. You have TV and movie stars playing roles to draw audiences in. We didn't have that as much back in 1980. As a matter of fact, I don't remember it at all. It's very smart producing, but... I guess it's more that it's so expensive that it allows less freedom for artists to mature to grow and write shows and make little mistakes and yet still survive. It's flop or fail now. It seems to be more black and white to me. That's my take, and although I'm not at all a producer and so I don't really understand the workings of it as deeply as many others.
It's a very competitive marketplace. I just think it's more competitive now. And shows - and god bless Come From Away - they either run for a long time or they don't. There's few of those, "We ran for six months," or a year and we qualified as a success and shows can take a year or two years to earn their investment back. So you have to be a hit in order to be a success and it seems like it's more that way.
What are you most looking forward to with the run ahead of you in this particular show?
I guess, it's to be in a show that runs for a longer time! I haven't - I signed a year a contract in October. The last year contract I had in a Broadway show was the year 2000. So, it's been a long time since I could take a deep breath and relax a little more financially and not have to worry about pushing my agents and being in touch to see what audition would be next. I don't have to hustle as much right now and sometimes that's a very welcome thing. It's more that I can relax in a little bit. Inside, I'm talking about - psychologically relax. Also, it's a wonderful feeling to be on the stage with those people and to feel the response night after night, to know that I'm a part of a show that touches people that deeply is a very rare thing. So, that's what I think I'm most looking forward to.
With a book, music and lyrics by Tony and Grammy Award nominees Irene Sankoff & David Hein, Come From Away is directed by Tony Award winner Christopher Ashley(Come From Away), musical staging by two-time Tony nominee Kelly Devine(Come From Away, Rocky), with music supervision by Grammy nominee Ian Eisendrath (Come From Away), scenic design by Tony Award winner Beowulf Boritt (Act One), costume design by Tony Award nominee Toni-Leslie James (Jelly's Last Jam), lighting design by two-time Tony Award winner Howell Binkley (Hamilton), sound design by Tony Award nominee Gareth Owen (End of the Rainbow), orchestrations by Tony nominee August Eriksmoen (Bright Star), music arrangements by Grammy nominee Ian Eisendrath and casting by Telsey + Company.
COME FROM AWAY tells the remarkable true story of 7,000 stranded passengers and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them. Cultures clashed and nerves ran high, but uneasiness turned into trust, music soared into the night, and gratitude grew into enduring friendships.